Bonding with clients
There were two major statistically valid findings that relate to a veterinarian's productivity:
The veterinarian's ability to bond with his or her client advances communication and has the most influence on the level of
It's not enough to recommend services.
It's the degree to which a veterinarian explains the reasons for the recommendations that drives the client's perceptions
of the value and the quality of the care.
The client must be convinced that the veterinarian sells them only that which the pet needs.
(This is a cogent argument against selling pet-shop items.)
The main reason cited for non-compliance with a veterinarian's recommendations was that the clients felt (a subjective emotion)
that the recommended treatment was not necessary.
This is a matter of trust. No other factor will have a greater influence on your client.
Most owners with a strong pet bond seek out the highest quality care, are less sensitive to price and more willing to follow
a DVM's recommendations. These owners were largely indifferfent to the price as long as there was a perceived need.
The study found:
» 38 percent wanted the highest quality of care for their pets without a concern for the cost.
» 43 percent took price into account in their decision-making process but were likely to spend whatever it took to get needed
care for their pets.
» Only 19 percent were price-sensitive and not always able to afford needed services.
Add it up: Four out of five, or 81 percent, were less concerned about price than their veterinarians. Only one out of five
might not be able to afford the best in pet care.
Out of the 19 percent price-sensitive group, "68 percent ... were still willing to spend whatever they were convinced was
necessary to keep their pets healthy."
Demand vs. fees
The JAVMA study went on to create demand vs. fee curves to show the percentage of pet owners who would buy various products or services
and at what price.
All the fee-sensitivity demand curves were similar in that they were steepest at the lowest (unprofitable) prices, but leveled
out in mid-price range to indicate price indifference, suggesting that most pet owners would "buy each configuration regardless
For every price point, the percentage of owners was highest when the services (vaccinations, heartworm medications, flea and
tick products, and spaying and neutering) were provided by full-service practices rather than Internet sites, vaccination
vans and spay-neuter clinics.
Again, trust trumps price.
Lowering your price does not bring about higher levels of confidence, the study showed. It found:
» "The pet-care industry has educated most pet owners that dogs and cats should get an examination once a year, if not twice.
» "In contrast, many pet owners were not aware that their pets should receive regular dental care.
» "Because lowering prices would have little impact on encouraging more frequent or additional preventive dental visits, the
industry and veterinarians should continue to concentrate efforts on educating clients about the benefit of annual dental
cleaning and twice-yearly physical examinations."
Blood and urine tests
» "For preventive dental care and spaying or neutering, pet owners were more likely to choose options that included hematologic
and chemical analyses before surgery, even at higher price points.
» "These findings suggest an opportunity to include blood workup consistently before surgery, not just offer it as an option.
» "Pain management before, during and after spaying or neutering was always desired.
» "Owners consistently chose spay or neuter configurations that included administration of pain medication over those that
did not feature pain control. It is critical to communicate clearly to pet owners to assure them their pets will not feel
pain while in the hospital."
Are you listening? Is the message getting through? Despite the slowdown/recession, most clients want their pets protected
regardless of cost.
Don't you want to convene a staff meeting right this moment to assure your staff that good medicine is still the object of
your practice? Do it!
Dr. Snyder, a well-known consultant, publishes Veterinary Productivity, a newsletter for practice productivity. He can be
reached at 112 Harmon Cove Towers Secaucus, NJ 07094; (800) 292-7995;
fax: (866) 908-6986.